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April 3, 2009


April 3, 2009

House Passes FDA Tobacco Bill

This week, Congress took another step toward granting the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products when the House of Representatives passed the Family Smoking and Tobacco Prevention Act (H.R. 1256) by of vote of 298-112. While considering the legislation, representatives rejected a substitute bill introduced by Rep. Buyer (R-IN), which would have created a new program at the Department of Health and Human Services to encourage smokers to switch to “reduced-harm” tobacco products.

Enactment of the FDA tobacco bill is a major legislative priority for the ATS. Over the past three years, more than 200 ATS members met with their elected officials in Washington, D.C., and urged them to support this bill. Many more called or e-mailed their representatives to stress the need for FDA regulation of tobacco. The culmination of these advocacy efforts, in coordination with sister physician and public health groups, secured the vote in the House.

Our attention will now turn to the Senate, which is expected to consider the legislation this summer. Unfortunately, the bill is expected to face stiff opposition from senators representing states where tobacco is grown. In particular, Senate Burr (R-NC) has stated his intention to filibuster the bill passed by the House. Senator Burr and Senator Hagen (D-NC) are offering an alternative bill that would create a new federal program to encourage reduced-harm tobacco products. Their proposed plan would also establish marketing and advertisement restrictions that are favorable to the tobacco industry. ATS members are encouraged to contact their senators and to urge them to oppose the Burr/Hagen bill—and instead support the House-passed FDA tobacco bill.

Tobacco: Supreme Court Lets Stands Tobacco Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court let stand an Oregon court’s decision to award $150 million to the Williams family, which sued Philip Morris nearly 10 years ago because its marketing campaign misled Jesse Williams into believing that tobacco products were neither harmful nor addictive. Mr. Williams died of smoking related causes.

A lower Oregon court had originally awarded the Williams family $80 million in damages, including punitive damages for the reprehensible behavior of Philip Morris. However, Philip Morris challenged the award, claiming the award size was so great that it was unconstitutional. The case was twice remanded to the Oregon Supreme Court, suggesting the award size was too large and violated the rights of Philip Morris. Twice the Oregon Court reaffirmed the original ruling. The Supreme Court has declined to hear the case.

Tuberculosis: Reps. Green and Brady Push for Full Funding for Domestic TB

This week, Reps. Green (D-TX) and Brady (R-TX) wrote to the House Labor-Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee chair and ranking member, Reps. Obey (D-WI) and Tiahrt (R-KS), requesting full funding for the CDC’s domestic tuberculosis program, as authorized under the Comprehensive TB Elimination Act (CTEA), which was enacted in October 2008.

The letter was signed by 15 members of the House, a strong show of support for strengthened TB control. In the letter, the signors emphasized that TB is a global pandemic, and that the rapid spread of drug-resistant forms of the disease poses a serious public health threat to the U.S. They further noted the unique need for new TB diagnostics, drugs and vaccines in their call to the Labor-HHS Subcommittee to provide $210 million for the CDC’s TB program as authorized under the CTEA.

Points of Contact

Gary Ewart Senior Director, Government Relations
Nuala Moore Senior Legislative Representative
Joe Kirby DC Office Administrator